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Washington Reads Fall 2010 - Memorable Reads

In the fall of 2003, I began the Washington Reads program of selecting Washington books for all ages on specific themes. I hoped to shine a light on the wealth of excellent books relevant to our state. The themes varied from locales within the state (Mount Saint Helens, Olympic Peninsula, etc.), history, genre such as mysteries and beach reads, Washington centric topics such as geology, artists, tastes of Washington, and the themes of Courage, Diversity, Washington Screams, Washington Inspires, Washington Works and others. We discovered Twilight before it became an international phenomenon. I had superb reader’s advisors in Kathryn Hamilton-Wang and Sean Lanksbury, who continue to be experts in northwest history and literature. Some believe I had a ghost reader, but I honestly did read each of these books, and decided that, with the opportunity to do that, I had the best job in the world.

Now, as I close my chapter as State Librarian, I am issuing the last episode of my favorite selections of Washington Reads. My goal was to select the books that had made an imprint on me and the state. Doing so wasn’t easy, as Washington has scores of incredibly gifted authors, and many of the books will have an impact on future generations. I am surprised to find that, of the books on this select list, two are Lewis and Clark themed, two are set in fictitious islands, two have become major movies, and two involve Japanese internment camps. There are also numerous works of fiction, reflecting my firm belief that the literature of a region mirrors the stories of the state, rounding out our history by showing the feelings and emotions integral to our past.

I hope that in looking at this list, you are inspired to go back over the past themes or to seek newer books that feature Washington and its exceptional literature. Please join me in continuing the celebration of the remarkable reads of Washington.

Jan Walsh, State Librarian, August 2010


Blomgren, Jennifer. Where Do I Sleep?: A Pacific Northwest Lullaby

This is a beautifully illustrated and colorful lullaby book. Illustrations, in pastels and vibrant natural colors, cover each oversize page. Each rhyme answers the question of where the animal sleeps in gentle rhythmic stanzas.

Eubank, Patti Reeder. Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark

My granddaughter Kayla’s insistence on "checking this book out" was the inspiration for the Washington Reads program. Lewis' Newfoundland dog, Seaman, recounts his three year adventure that covers more than 8,000 miles. Children are fascinated by the adventures described by this big, furry, webbed-footed dog. Seaman is mistaken for a bear by the Native Americans who have never seen such a large dog. He has remarkable encounters with both familiar and unfamiliar wild animals. With lively text and superb full page art, the author draws the reader in to see the expedition through Seaman's eyes. This is sure to be a favorite, starting with: "Here is my story of the greatest adventure a dog ever had when I followed Lewis and Clark all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back again" and ending with "And I, Seaman, have brought my wise, brave, and dedicated master safely home." 

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Alexie’s first novel for young adults is a coming-of-age story that will make you laugh while it breaks your heart. With wit and humor, it chronicles Junior’s attempts to rise above the expectations people have for him, in Wellpinit and Reardon, Sherman’s hometowns. Already selected as a one-book read by several Washington communities, this book will stand the test of time. This book became a best seller after its selection as a Washington Reads book.

Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight

Because we selected Twilight as a Washington Reads book long before it became an international phenomenon, this list would be incomplete without it. Sun-loving Bella moves from Arizona to rainy Forks, Washington to live with her Dad. She becomes intrigued by Edward, who just happens to be a vampire. The secret romance soon evolves into a thriller, as the two struggle to keep Bella alive. Who knew that a book about vampires in Forks would be so wildly popular? 

Lynch, Jim. The Highest Tide: A Novel

Olympia author Jim Lynch's masterful first novel intertwines the untold stories of the sea with many of life's mysteries. Lynch's knowledge and sense of wonder with the natural world shine through this book. Many Olympia and Mud Bay locations are named, while other names are fictitious. This coming of age novel, with an engaging plot and metaphor, received much deserved acclaim and attention, and will be read by future generations.

Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars

This beautifully written novel takes place on an island in the straits north of Puget Sound in the 1950s. Memories of internment camps and World War II fuel the accusation of a Japanese-American fisherman suspected of killing a former high school classmate. Ishmael Chambers, the local newspaper’s only reporter, covers the trial, and in doing so, provides the reader with a love story, murder mystery, courtroom drama, and the painful history after the war and internment. The writing, with intertwining themes and sensory descriptions, is moving.

Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This book was itself the inspiration for the Washington Reads theme "Washington Inspires”.  This debut novel is a stunning story of innocence and romance in Seattle during the war-torn period of World War II.  The plot has many layers, and gives us an honest portrayal of both the sentiments and dealings that were pervasive in the years after Pearl Harbor.  It is a tale of family, friendship, and forgiveness. 

King, Laurie. Folly

This book is a gem, weaving together mysteries of the past and the present. Tormented Rae Newborn attempts to find solace on Folly Island in the San Juan Islands. Intriguing characters, beautiful prose, and the sense of the islands' history and ecology, make this a must read on multiple levels. 

Randlett, Mary. Mary Randlett: Landscapes.  Introduction by Ted D’Arms; with an essay and poems by Denise Levertov; contributions by Barry Herem, Jo Ann Ridley, and Joyce Thompson

In this majestic photographic journey through the Northwest, Randlett’s black-and-white photos capture the essence of the region, and transform nature into an art form.  The light, composition, and movement pay homage to the power and spirit of the natural and mystical Northwest. This is guaranteed to entice you to explore the wonders of the state.

Ziak, Rex. In Full View

This is a compelling work about the Lewis and Clark expedition, describing the thirty days from November 7 to December 7, 1805; the book itself is a work of art. The narration follows the Corps passage through the lower Columbia, and conveys through the narrative, quotes from the journals, exquisite photographs and maps, and the danger and excitement of the expedition during one month. It brings to life the sense of despair mixed with final triumph, packaged with remarkable graphics and photography. Ziak's background in photography and cinematography combine with a depth of research on the environment and history to create an exquisite book that is a compelling read for Washingtonians.